University of Maryland Hospital for Children
at the University of Maryland Medical Center

The Rebecca Ava Rabinowitz Molecular
Diagnostic Laboratory

The University of Maryland Hospital for Children has continued to make rapid strides in the detection of multiple respiratory viruses. With the assistance of the Luminex 200, identification of causative viruses can be shortened from an average of twelve days to fewer than 48 hours. The initial study of 529 specimens for ten respiratory viruses has been completed, the transition of the project from research to clinical use has commenced, and the department is on its way to becoming a respiratory virus reference laboratory for the state of Maryland. Their program, led by Dr. Steven Czinn, adheres to achieving R Baby’s long-term goal of proving that detecting viral infections quicker will lead to better care, saving lives with the consequent decrease of unnecessary testing, medicinal errors, hospital stays, and overall costs.

SECOND YEAR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
The University of Maryland Hospital for Children has continued to refine its methodology for detecting multiple respiratory viruses through the acquisition of a Luminex 200 instrument and the validation of a multi-plex diagnostic test which allows the efficient detection of multiple viral causes of diseases from a single specimen. With the assistance of the Luminex 200, identification of causative viruses can be shortened from days or weeks to hours. In the hospital, all clinicians will eventually be trained on ordering the assay and on the interpretation of the results. The initial study of 529 specimens for ten respiratory viruses has been completed, the transition of the project from research to clinical use has commenced, and the department is on its way to becoming a respiratory virus reference laboratory for the state of Maryland. Their program is on its way to achieving R Baby’s long-term goal of proving that detecting viral infections quicker will lead to better care with the consequent decrease of unnecessary testing, medicinal errors, hospital stays, and overall costs.


FIRST YEAR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
The University of Maryland Children’s Hospital’s Rebecca Rabinowitz Laboratory is working to identify up to 100 different infections in a single sample, reducing a 2 week turnaround to under 12 hours for most lab results. Already, 10 important viruses can be detected in only 3 hours vs. a 2-7 day norm. The lab team stepped up for the recent outbreak of swine flu and now offers an emergency resource statewide. Detecting infections faster in babies can mean the difference between life and death.

 
 

Saving Babies’ Lives through Research, Diagnosis and Treatment

Our molecular tests focus on several viruses afflicting babies and children:

  • Adenoviruses(respiratory and gastrointestinal) cause pneumonia, diarrhea, fever and disseminated severe infections. We have developed a quick method to detect adenoviruses, but this test needs to be integrated with others to be truly practical.

  • Caliciviruses (gastrointestinal) cause severe and lethal diseases. We have already successfully developed a test that identifies many caliciviruses.

  • Enteroviruses (gastrointestinal) induce a large number of severe illnesses. We plan to devise very efficient methods of screening for enteroviruses.

  • Herpesviruses (cold sores), although highly treatable, can be devastating to infants, who often go undiagnosed for a week after symptoms appear. We plan to develop better diagnostics for herpesviruses.

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On August 24, 2007, leaders of the University of Maryland Hospital for Children at the University of Maryland Medical Center and the R Baby Foundation gathered for a special ceremony to dedicate a new laboratory devoted to the development of new and improved diagnostic tests for infectious diseases afflicting babies and children in the United States and around the world.

The Rebecca Ava Rabinowitz Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, created with $110,000 in funding from the R Baby Foundation, will utilize modern diagnostic research equipment and the employment of outstanding microbiologists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in cooperation with engineers at the Ibis Division of Isis Pharmaceuticals. The 400-square-foot laboratory is located in the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Health Sciences Facility II building.

“Our society’s remarkable record of success in the fight against infectious diseases is well known,” says James Nataro, M.D, Ph.D., head of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Still, many babies die each year from infections. Although we can diagnose and treat most of these infections, it can be extremely difficult for even the most experienced doctors to identify the cause early enough to initiate effective treatment. Physicians need a system to rapidly identify the many microorganisms that cause serious infections in infants,” says Dr. Nataro, who is leading the development of the lab.

Neonates in particular presenting non-specific symptoms risk serious illness or death, as doctors often must suspect a particular infection for a diagnosis to work. A test to be developed by the laboratory will allow clinicians to acquire a single sample of blood or spinal fluid, extract the genetic materials and inject it into a machine that identifies the genetic blueprint for disease-causing organisms. Currently it can take weeks to identify germs causing an infection, but these tests will reduce the time to hours, quickly revealing the cause of the infection and greatly accelerating accurate diagnosis, intervention and treatment. The first generation test is projected to be available by the end of 2008.

“The R Baby Foundation’s donation is an incredibly valuable gift, not only for Baltimore but for the entire state,” says Steven Czinn, M.D., head of the University of Maryland Hospital for Children and professor and chair of the department of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “With this funding and the establishment of the laboratory, we will be able to educate the community at large about a risk that is unique to premature and young infants.”

“Having grown up in the Baltimore area, I am thrilled with the partnership between the University of Maryland Hospital for Children and the R Baby Foundation,” said Phyllis Rabinowitz, co-founder of the R Baby Foundation. “I feel confident that the new Rebecca Rabinowitz Laboratory will enable physicians to detect infant infections more rapidly and that we will help many families avoid the tragedy that Andrew and I endured. Together, we will save the lives of countless babies.”

Key speakers at the event included Dr. Steven Czinn, head of the University of Maryland Hospital for Children and professor and chair of the department of pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine; Dr. James Nataro, head of the division of pediatric infectious disease, University of Maryland Hospital for Children and professor of pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine; Herbert Buchanan, chief operating officer, University of Maryland Medical Center; Dr. Bruce Jarrelll, vice dean for research and academic affairs, University of Maryland School of Medicine; and Henry Belsky, R Baby Foundation board member. A variety of local media, including WJZ-TV Baltimore and The Baltimore Sun, covered the dedication.




Event Press Coverage
August 27, 2007
New Laboratory Develops Rapid Diagnostic Tests for Infant Infections
Posted on UMM.com
Read Article »

August 27, 2007
Diagnosing Sick Babies Shouldn't Be Guesswork
Posted on examiner.com
Read Article »

August 25, 2007
Lab Dedicated to Infant Safety
Baltimore Sun
Read Article »

August 24, 2007
Maryland Medical Center Dedicates New Infant Lab
Posted on WJZ-TV Channel 13, Baltimore
Read Article »